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Financial Services Law Insights and Observations

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  • Georgia updates license exemption provisions

    On May 2, the Georgia governor signed HB 891, which updates provisions related to licensing exemptions. The bill establishes that, starting on July 1, in addition to all other fees, license fees, fines, or other charges now or hereafter levied or assessed on the licensee, there is a fee of 0.125 percent of the gross loan amount. Further, such per loan fee becomes due on the making of any such loan, including, but not limited to, the closing of a loan, the renewal or refinancing of a loan, or a modification of a loan which results in the execution of a new or amended loan agreement. Additionally, the bill clarifies that the Department of Banking and Finance can issue cease and desist orders to persons that are not licensed. The bill also establishes that an individual cannot engage in the business of making installment loans or acting as an installment lender in Georgia unless that person is licensed. Among other things, the bill also makes conforming changes, provides definitions, and repeals conflicting laws.

    Licensing State Issues State Legislation Georgia Installment Loans

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  • Georgia amends mortgage lender/broker licensing provisions

    On May 2, the Georgia governor signed SB 470, which amends state provisions related to mortgage lender and broker licensing. Among other things, the act: (i) defines a “covered employee” as “any employee of a mortgage lender or mortgage broker who is involved in residential mortgage loan related activities for property located in Georgia,” including but not limited to, “a mortgage loan originator, processor, or underwriter, or other employee who has access to residential mortgage loan origination, processing, or underwriting information”; (ii) adds “covered employee” to the list of persons for whom the Department of Banking and Finance may not issue a license or must revoke a license due to a felony conviction; and (iii) authorizes the Department to obtain conviction data with respect to a “covered employee.” The act is effective immediately.

    Licensing State Issues State Legislation Georgia Mortgages

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  • District Court grants SEC motion for default judgment

    Courts

    On November 2, the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Georgia granted the SEC’s motion for default judgement in its suit accusing a Georgia-based investment firm and three of its officers of defrauding investors out of approximately $3 million. In July, the SEC filed a complaint against the defendants for allegedly defrauding investors through a prime bank scheme by falsely promising that their funds would remain in a purported escrow account and earn lucrative returns without any risk of loss, which violated the antifraud provisions of Section 17(a) of the Securities Act of 1933 and Section 10(b) of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934 and Rule 10b-5 thereunder. In its memorandum of law in support of its motion for default judgment, the SEC alleged that none of the defendants filed answers or responsive pleadings with the district court and had “engaged in egregious misconduct, acted with scienter, failed to admit their wrongdoing, were thoroughly dishonest with authorities, and have not demonstrated their financial means.” The district court granted the motion, approved permanent injunctions barring the defendants from committing future violations of securities laws, and required the defendants to return the investors' money with interest, in addition to the profits obtained through the alleged scheme. According to the order, the defendants are required to pay approximately $2.7 million total in disgorgement, exclusive of prejudgment interest, and pay a civil penalty of approximately $192,000.

    Courts Georgia Securities SEC Enforcement Securities Act Securities Exchange Act

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  • District Court grants Georgia regulator default judgment against unauthorized bank

    State Issues

    On July 26, the Georgia Department of Banking and Finance (Department) announced that the Superior Court of DeKalb County entered an order granting default judgment against defendants for unauthorized banking activities and the unapproved use of the word “bank.” Under Georgia law, it is unlawful to conduct, advertise, or be affiliated with a banking business in the state without a bank charter. Georgia law also prohibits the use of the words “bank” and/or “trust” in any entity’s name without permission from the Department. In 2020, the Department issued a cease and desist order against the defendants after the Department determined that it had no records of the entity and had not approved it or the individual defendant to organize a bank and/or conduct a banking business in or from Georgia. Nor had the Department granted the entity defendant the ability to use the word “bank” in its name. The Department later discovered that the defendants violated the cease and desist order by continuing to engage in unauthorized banking activities and continuing to advertise using the word “bank” without approval. The court ordered the defendants to comply with the cease and desist order and permanently enjoined them from, among other things, using bank nomenclature and advertising or providing financial products or services from within Georgia without written authorization from the Department.

    State Issues State Regulators Courts Georgia Compliance

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  • CFPB, Georgia AG allege debt-relief violations

    Federal Issues

    On June 29, the CFPB announced a stipulated final judgment and order against a financial services company and its owners for allegedly deceiving consumers into hiring the company. According to the complaint filed in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Georgia with the Georgia attorney general, the defendants violated the Telemarketing and Consumer Fraud and Abuse Prevention Act, the Telemarketing Sales Rule, the Consumer Financial Protection Act, and Georgia’s Fair Business Practices Act by using telemarketing practices to deceptively induce consumers to hire the company, by, among other things, falsely promising to help them: (i) reduce their credit card debts by advertising to potential customers through direct mailers; and (ii) improve consumers’ credit scores by claiming they could restore their credit scores and that they had a “credit restoration team.” In addition, the defendants “collected millions of dollars in advance fees, claiming that it provided a ‘debt validation’ program that used the debt-verification process set forth in the [FDCPA] to invalidate and eliminate debt and improve consumers’ credit record, history, or rating.” Under the terms of the order, the defendants are banned from the telemarketing of any consumer financial product and selling financial advisory, debt relief, or credit repair services. The defendants must also pay a fine of $150,001, $15,000 of which will be remitted to the state of Georgia, and a penalty of approximately $30 million in consumer redress (full payment of which may be suspended if certain conditions are met).

    Federal Issues CFPB State Issues State Attorney General TSR Georgia CFPA FDCPA TCPA Enforcement

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  • Georgia announces new rental assistance program

    State Issues

    On February 19, Georgia Governor Brian Kemp announced that Georgia has received $552 million from the federal government to implement a rental assistance program.  The Georgia Department of Community Affairs will be administering the Georgia Rental Assistance program (subject to the still-developing U.S. Treasury guidelines), which will make payments directly to the landlords and utility providers of eligible individuals. To qualify for the program, a household must have:

    • Qualified for unemployment benefits or experienced a reduction in household income, incurred significant costs, or experienced other financial hardship due directly or indirectly to Covid-19;
    • Demonstrated a risk of experiencing homelessness or housing instability; and
    • Have a household income at or below 80% of the Area Median Income (AMI), with priority given to: 1) households below 50% of the AMI, or 2) households with one or more individuals who have been unemployed 90 days or longer.

    Payments are generally capped at 12 months of rent and utilities, but may extend to 15 under certain circumstances. 

    State Issues Covid-19 Georgia Mortgages

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  • Georgia executive order requires telework, virtual conduct of business

    State Issues

    On December 8, the governor of Georgia issued an executive order requiring businesses considered to be “Critical Infrastructure” to implement measures to mitigate the spread of Covid-19, including telework for all possible workers and delivering intangible services remotely. The order authorizes the Georgia Department of Economic Development to issue further guidance to persons considered to be Critical Infrastructure, which includes the financial services sector.

    State Issues Covid-19 Georgia Financial Services

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  • Georgia extends “sheltering in place” requirements

    State Issues

    On April 30, the Georgia governor issued an executive order renewing the public health state of emergency, which was set to expire on May 13, for 30 days. The executive order extends the state’s “sheltering in place” requirements until June 12, 2020.

    State Issues Covid-19 Georgia

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  • Georgia governor issues renewal of state of emergency

    State Issues

    On April 30, Georgia Governor Brian Kemp issued an executive order renewing the public health state of emergency. The extension renews Kemp’s previous emergency order set to expire on May 13. The extension is valid for an additional 30 days and will expire on June 13.

    State Issues Covid-19 Georgia

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  • Georgia Department of Banking and Finance issues bulletin regarding lending, liquidity, business continuity, and regulatory reporting

    State Issues

    The Georgia Department of Banking and Finance has issued its monthly bulletin for financial institutions in which it provides guidance on lending, liquidity, business continuity planning, and regulatory reporting. Among other things, the department reiterates the importance of liquidity risk management during Covid-19 and urges financial institutions to consider the impact of certain scenarios on their liquidity. The department also provides questions that financial institutions should consider as part of their pandemic planning. The bulletin also notes that, for banks and credit unions, the department is implementing electronic document and payment submission for correspondence, applications, and requests, including any applicable fees.

    State Issues Covid-19 Georgia Lending Bank Regulatory Risk Management Bank Compliance Credit Union

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